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Sal Mineo: A Biography
Written by Michael Gregg Michaud   

Review by James Colt Harrison  

sal-book_rv200.jpgThe British have their Royal Family to idolize. Americans love movie stars. They cheer them during their rise to stardom. Then they love to tear them down and see them fall. Such is the case with a former teen idol, profiled in a stunning new book Sal Mineo: A Biography, by Michael Gregg Michaud. In Mineo's case, he may have been his own worst enemy. The book details every triumph and setback in Mineo's short film career.

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Sal Mineo & James Dean in
Rebel Without A Cause

Rocketing to stardom as Plato in the iconic teen-angst film of 1955, Sal Mineo became the first actor to portray a gay teenager in Rebel Without A Cause. Mineo became known for his sensitive portrayal of a boy who worshipped James Dean in a love triangle with Natalie Wood. She loved Dean and so did Mineo. It was the first time overt boy-boy love was shown on American screens. Homosexuality was taboo in those days, so the portrayal had to be done in a subtle and appealing way. Mineo, age 16, being a soulful actor, was so good that he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the film, the youngest actor to that point to be so honored.

Mineo was born in the Bronx on January 1,1939 to a casket-making father and loving Italian mother. Author Michaud delves into the family background with many interviews with the Mineos. They were a tightly knit family, and as Mineo grew up, he always relied heavily on his parents and siblings for support. Showing an early talent for dancing and musical leanings, he got his start on Broadway in the non-musical play by Tennessee Williams, The Rose Tattoo. He then was cast as Yul Brynner's Prince son in the musical The King and I.

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Paul Newman & Sal Mineo in Someone Up There_Likes Me
A few roles on television led Mineo to Hollywood, where he made appearances with Tony Curtis in Six Bridges to Cross and Charlton Heston in The Private War of Major Benson.   This led to being cast in Rebel and his rise to stardom. Mineo developed a charming personality and used his good looks to advantage. He had a tough but vulnerable quality about him, which served him well in several pictures in which he played juvenile delinquents. Films such as   Somebody Up There Likes Me with Paul Newman and Pier Angeli, and Crime In The Streets solidified that image.

Author Michaud details Mineo's private life as being that of a normal, healthy straight male in his early days. He could have any girl he wanted. He never stuck to any of them until he met British actress Jill Haworth in 1960 on the film Exodus. She was just a teen at the time and their affair was frowned upon. Mineo's true sexual preferences made a massive U-turn as he led a wild and carefree life. He and Haworth remained friends for their entire lives.

Mineo's career spiraled downward, not because of his newly-found bisexuality, but because of poor career choices and the fact that his style of movie star was passé. Reasons are given for Mineo's failure to re-start a career while only in his thirties. The book is a fascinating look into the rise and fall of a once-wildly popular star. His life was cut short at age 37 by a thief who stabbed the actor to death during a botched robbery attempt.

DATA ABOUT THE BOOK

  • Sal Mineo: A Biography
  • Crown Archetype, Crown Publishing Group Random House, Inc., New York http://www.crownpublising.com/
  • ISBN: 978-0-307-71868-6
  • Hardcover
  • 421 pages
  • $25.99

Photo credits: Book Jacket Design: Jean Traina; Jacket Photos: Globe Photos, Inc. front and spine

 



                       

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